Aid "milestone" reached with Syria convoys

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Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian taskforce coordinator, said that Arbin and Zamalka had not received aid since November 2012. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The delivery of aid to the last two besieged locations in Syria which have been without outside help since 2012 represents a humanitarian "milestone", the UN said Thursday.

That message came from Jan Egeland, coordinator of an international humanitarian taskforce based at the UN in Geneva, after supplies reached Arbin and Zamalka in Rural Damascus.

Despite the welcome development, Mr Egeland voiced concern at the risk of starvation in other locations, as well as continued difficulties in delivering life-saving medical supplies.

Daniel Johnson has more.

 People in Arbin and Zamalka had been without aid since November 2012, but that changed when no less than 37 trucks rolled into town on Thursday.

 That delivery means that all 18 besieged locations on the UN's list have now been reached against all odds, although it was not without incident, as humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland told journalists in Geneva.

 "On its way out there was a sniper attack at the convoy. One of the drivers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was shot through the chest. He is now thankfully under good care in a hospital in Damascus, but it was a very close call."

 Violence persists more widely in the war-torn country, which has seen conflict between government and rebel militias since 2011.

 For Mr Egeland it's a sign that the cessation of hostilities is not holding "in too many places".

 Another major worry is that starvation may return to four towns where an agreement to deliver aid 'is not holding any more": Madaya and Zabdin outside Damascus and Foah and Kafraya further north.

 The UN aid coordinator also expressed concern that more people are living in so-called hard-to-reach areas, already estimated at 5.5 million.

 But he blamed the biggest loss of life on the fact that medical help continues to be blocked to those who need it by all sides to the conflict, the logic seeming to be that that "the doctor of my enemy is my enemy", Mr Egeland said.

 Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

 Duration: 1’32

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